The word Paraclete, peculiar in the Bible to the Gospel of St. John, directly denotes the role of the Holy Spirit as intercessor, consoler, teacher, and defender of Christ's disciples; yet implicit in the fourth Gospel (Jn 14.26) is the fundamental thought that Jesus Himself is the primary Paraclete, a thought that John clearly enunciates elsewhere (1 Jn 1.2).
Extra-Biblical Use of the Term. The English word Paraclete comes, through the Latin Paracletus, from the Greek Παράκλητοσ. The verb παρακαλειν means "to call to one's side"; hence it has various derived meanings depending on the function for which one is called, such as to defend, to intercede, to console. Morphologically, as a verbal adjective ending in τοσ, the word Παράκλητοσ would normally have a passive meaning, "one called to another"; yet in usage, the meaning derives primarily from the function of the one called, so that the few examples of this word in extra-Biblical Greek show rather the active meaning, "helper, defender, mediator, consoler." In Jb 16.2 the Hebrew active (hiph’îl) participle m enaḥa'mîm, "comforters," was translated as παράκλητοι by Aquila and Theodotion. The term appears also in Philo in an active sense, "helper" or "mediator" (De Specialibus Legibus 1.237; De Opificio Mundi 23). In rabbinical Judaism this Greek term was taken over into Mishnaic Hebrew as a transliterated loanword, p eraqlît. As such, it was used for both human and angelic mediators or intercessors, and especially for the "advocate" (the one called) who pleads the cause of another in a judicial process.
Johannine Usage. The word Paraclete occurs only five times in the Bible, and all five occurrences are in the writings of St. John: 1 Jn 2.1; Jn 14.16, 26; 15.26; 16.7.
Christ, the Paraclete. In 1 Jn 2.1 it is Jesus Christ who is termed the paraclete. The active sense of the word is clear in this case; Jesus is our defender, our intercessor before the Father. If Christians commit sin, they should not despair; they have Christ, who is Himself "just" (i.e., innocent), as their advocate to plead their case before God's supreme tribunal. This concept of Jesus Christ as the heavenly Paraclete, or Advocate, leads naturally to the use of the term in the farewell discourse of Jesus at the last supper (Jn 14–16).
The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete-Advocate. In His discourse at the Last Supper Jesus announces His imminent departure from this earth (Jn 13.33; 14.2; 16.5), but He also tells His disciples of a return that is to follow very shortly after this absence (14.18, 28). This return is then explained in terms of the abiding presence of the Spirit of the glorified Lord who will be sent from the Father and the Son after the Son's glorification (16.7–11; see also7.39). When the holy spirit is first mentioned in this context, He is described as "another Paraclete" (14.16). Jesus is the primary and, in a certain sense, even the unique Paraclete; the Holy Spirit is "another" only in the sense that through Him Jesus will remain forever present with the Apostles and with all who through them come to believe in Him. They and their spiritual descendants in the Church will not be left like defenseless orphans to become the prey of an evil world; they will have a permanent advocate to plead their cause before the just tribunal of God against all the evil tribunals of this world (14.16–18). The usage of the term here is similar to, but broader than, that in 1 Jn 2.1. The Paraclete who is the Spirit of the glorified Christ, in defending the Church, must condemn the world that has wrongfully accused it. Here the defender is also a prosecutor. This activity of the Spirit-Paraclete can be perceived only by faith; even though this divine Advocate is the very "Spirit of truth"(14.16; 15.26; 16.13), the world will not listen to Him (14.17).
The Holy Spirit, the Paraclete-Defender. The next passage where the Spirit-Paraclete appears is Jn 14.26. This time only one aspect of His dual role as defenderprosecutor is stressed. He must keep the Apostles ever mindful of all that Jesus has taught them and make plain to them what they have not yet fully understood (see also 16.12–15), for only insofar as they remain faithful to His teaching can their divine Advocate prove them blameless before the judgment seat of God against all the accusations of this world (16.1–4). In these two Paraclete passages in John ch. 14, the Spirit appears primarily as the Advocate defending the Apostles and the Church.
The Spirit-Paraclete, Witness of the Truth. In Jn 15.1–8 the absolute need of the Apostles to remain united with Jesus is described under the symbolism of the vine. Then in 15.18–25 the Apostles are warned that they, in their union with Christ, will share in the world's hatred and persecution of Him. Therefore, the Spirit-Paraclete will also have to come to the defense of Christ; He will bear witness to the truth of what Jesus did and said and was (15.26). It is in the Spirit's defense of the mission of Jesus that the truth of the Apostles' mission is guaranteed (15.27; see also Mk 13.11; Mt 10.20; Lk 12.12).
Judicial Role of the Spirit-Paraclete. The exact meaning of Jn 15.26 is made clearer in the final and climatic use of the term Paraclete in Jn 16.7. Once again Jesus reiterates that His departure is but the condition and prelude to His return in the Spirit (16.5–6). Moreover, when the Spirit-Paraclete of Jesus comes, He will do three things: first, He will prove that the world is guilty of sin because it acted unjustly in refusing to believe in Jesus, as well as in condemning Him "without cause"(15.25) to death before its human tribunal; secondly, He will prove that Jesus was "just," i.e., innocent, by bearing witness to the fact that His death was not a defeat but a glorious return to the Father; thirdly, having established both the guilt of the world and the innocence of Jesus, He will pass sentence of condemnation on "the prince of this world," i.e., Satan. Human tribunals may condemn Jesus and His followers (15.18–25; 16.1–4; 17.16), but before the solemn tribunal of God, the Paraclete overturns and reverses these judgments—on Jesus (15.26; 16.7) and on those who are faithful to Him (14.16, 26).
Bibliography: Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963) 1717–20. j. behm, g. kittel, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Stuttgart 1935–) 5:798–812. x. lÉon-dufour, ed., Vocabulaire de théologie biblique (Paris 1962). l. j. lutkemeyer, "The Role of the Paraclete (Jn. 16:7–15)," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 8 (1946) 220–229. o. betz, Der Paraklet: Fürsprecher im häretischen Spätjudentum, im Johannes-Evangelium und in neu gefundenen gnostischen Schriften (Leiden 1963). r. e. brown, The Gospel According to John (Anchor Bible 29 and 29A; Garden City 1966). passim.
[d. m. crossan]